Notre Dame’s Austin Wuthrich and UMass Lowell’s Zack Kamrass watch goalie Connor Hellebuyck make one of his 35 saves Friday night.SUN/JULIA
Notre Dame's Austin Wuthrich and UMass Lowell's Zack Kamrass watch goalie Connor Hellebuyck make one of his 35 saves Friday night. SUN/JULIA MALAKIE

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BOSTON -- Luck of the Irish?

Not when it came to firing pucks at Connor Hellebuyck. The UMass Lowell sophomore entered Friday statistically the best goalie in the country.

Goals against average: 1.63 -- best in the nation. Save percentage: 938 -- best in the nation.

But Hellebuyck saved his best work for the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. In three wins this season against the boys from South Bend, Ind., Hellebuyck stopped 109 of 110 shots as UMass Lowell outscored Notre Dame, 8-1.

Hellebuyck's latest gem against Notre Dame was a 35-save shutout during UML's 4-0 victory in the Hockey East semifinals at the TD Garden Friday.

He robbed Jeff Costello with a sliding right pad save in the second period. In the third period, he stopped a slap shot, then gloved a rebound attempt from Notre Dame's T.J. Tynan, who slapped the puck out of the air for a shot which seemed headed for the corner of the net.

Tynan shook his head in disbelief as he skated behind the net.

"Sorry, I don't remember particular moments. But what I do remember is a bunch of guys in front of me paying the price," Hellebuyck said.

It was Hellebuyck's 11th career shutout, breaking the program record of Carter Hutton.

"It's a great feeling. It's definitely a milestone in my life," Hellebuyck said.

Hellebuyck is 3-0 in games at the TD Garden and a major reason the River Hawks will try to repeat as playoff champions Saturday night. Dating back to last March, he hasn't allowed a goal on Boston ice in 171 minutes, one second.

"It's definitely just the playoff hockey," he said. "It's also the guys in front of me making it look easy."

"Any great goalie has a calm demeanor that trickles down to the defensemen first and then the forwards," UML head coach Norm Bazin said.

BIG ON THE BLUE LINE: The average size of ND's six starting defensemen was a hair under 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds.

Leading the hit parade for the Fighting Irish was 6-4, 233-pound senior Stephen Johns.

But UML didn't back down. On three of UML's goals, senior captain Josh Holmstrom worked to get in front of goaltender Steven Summerhays. Holmstrom officially didn't record a point, but he served notice the River Hawk forwards weren't going to be intimidated.

"We just wanted to keep it simple and establish a forecheck. We tried to play the body and wear their legs down. You're not going to beat them with outside shots," Holmstrom said.

LOOSE PUCKS: Pro hockey insider Bob McKenzie tweeted this week that UML sophomore defenseman Christian Folin is the top unsigned free agent in college hockey. Folin scored the game's first goal when his shot, which was headed wide, deflected in off the skate of ND defenseman Kevin Lind. The pride of Gothenberg, Sweden later added an assist.

"It's obviously fun to hear," Folin said of McKenzie's report, "but it doesn't mean anything. I love being at UMass Lowell and I plan to graduate." ...

Notre Dame sophomore left wing Mario Lucia is the son of Minnesota head coach Don Lucia...

UML's second leading scorer, sophomore Adam Chapie, did not play. He was injured last weekend vs. Vermont. ... UML is 18-2-3 when scoring first. ... UML went 2-for-3 on the power play and is 5-for-11 in the Hockey East playoffs.

"We were able to cash in on two power plays, which was very, very important," senior forward Derek Arnold said. Arnold, who scored UML's second goal, now has 97 career points...

Asked to make an opening statement before taking questions from the media, ND head coach Jeff Jackson was succinct: "We lost 4-zip." ... Tynan accompanied Jackson to the press conference. "I thought we weren't ready to play and focused. Obviously against a team like that you can't be sluggish for the first half of the game," he said.

Tynan said Notre Dame could have been tired from playing a grueling three-game series against BC last weekend -- then promptly noted UML was coming off a tough three-game series with Vermont. ... Notre Dame had 10 seniors in its lineup compared to five for UML.

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